Tag Archives: architecture

LA’s floating islands

Wealth in LA floats. We are not just segregated from north to south and east to west, but above and below. And I suppose I knew about the aerial isle that was once Bunker Hill, but I’d never really walked it, and until you walk you don’t really know a place. At 4th and Hope you are high up above LA, and all traces of the old Victorian neighborhood once there were completely bulldozed and destroyed several decades ago. And there followed some truly grim decades in terms of block architecture, and a planning model designed to keep public space as the exclusive right of the right people. So it is a modern wonderland of concrete and plazas leading to car garages and sleek, expensive men and women. There are a couple of skyscrapers built on it, their lights serve as the stars and I’ll not deny a strange beauty to them…there are some expensive shops and restaurants, but they all look like upscale chains. It’s that particularly L.A. thing I think, where everything is relatively new, sanitized, familiar, safe. People here trade what is real and true for a secure and enhanced façade every time, just look at sunset strip with its fake western bar, it’s fake Irish pub. Look at people themselves. And this place is made for cars, you have to climb a very steep hill to get here, and it isn’t the easiest thing on foot. I’m sure that’s quite deliberate. The right sort of person doesn’t walk in this city. I passed Gehry’s Disney hall, it’s on the edge of this as is MOCA. Wealth’s claim on high culture.

Usually I go beneath this place, through the terminator tunnel with its shiny white tiles reflecting the light when they are not falling off the walls, and the homeless sleeping along the sidewalk. I like it better underneath.  The higher you go in LA, the richer it invariably gets. From crack in Hollywood to cocaine in the Hollywood Hills and so it goes everywhere…even Echo Park has had its bastions of wealth up on top of everything, and now of course it is gentrifying at the speed of light, and from top down.

These things make me angry, so I’m glad the YMCA is still there, giving people one last reason to democratize space. I was walking because I forgot a clean shirt to change into after workout, sauna and steam, and couldn’t face jumping on a standing room only bus full of people going home from work. Especially since I was going home TO work. Happy Friday to me. But I haven’t really been home for so long, so I’m still enjoying it.

LA Adventures

They’re winding down…a month to go exactly, and I have never loved LA as much as now when I am about to leave it…it is an amazing city. I only have 4 weekends left before I leave, and they are full to overflowing with plans already…This is more of a journal entry for me to look over when I’m nostalgic in Sctland, so apologies…yesterday spent the day with meo and her unborn, haven’t seen her in ages! We went out to brunch and then walked about Silverlake a bit, went to Secret Headquarters, the new comic book store and it’s great, I got Love and Rockets which was madness because i am supposed to be getting rid of all of my material possessions, but i swear i am going to read it on the plane. I also realized that a few blogs ago I stated that men only look good in boxers…the Tomatoes episode, a classic LA moment…and I have to now partially reverse this sweeping statement and say that to ME, men only look good in boxers. Apperently, to other men, men look much better in small colourful briefs or thongs…this thought gives me a shudder, but as proof I offer the following view into Rough Trade:

We wandered on in, it’s quite tame in the front room, you can see the hard core bondage stuff peeking flirtily from the back, and there’s an upstairs as well, but meo wasn’t feeling like stairs so we scarpered. We also found a great T-shirt shop, and I bought one featuring “chelvis,” or che crossed with elvis, it’s ridiculous…

We then headed over to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, i cannot believe in all my years here I had never gone the 20 minutes down sunset to see it. It’s quite beautiful

though they would allow no photos inside the bastards. I even went to look for a picture to scan of the inside because it is quite glorious but actually found jack all on the internet and I realized my big art books are almost all sold…hooray for that! It was beautiful, if a bit cold, and sadly I discovered that Mr. Wright did not understand plumbing or allowing for rain so apparently most of his 28 roofs leaked…anyways, it’s highly recommended in spite of a slightly annoying tour guide. The views over LA were incredible as well, and since it’s been so windy the sky was incredibly clear, and you realize what a difference the absence of smog can make in your life…

Saw Pan’s Labyrinth, everyone must see it, and on the big screen if at all possible, it is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. With the possible exception of you Chris, if you’re reading this, given it is a bit of a fairytale. Still, it’s an anti fairy tale really, and the previews are crap as it is only partly goth fantasy and the other half you might not be able to resist – the Spanish civil war and the splendid facsist step-father. It’s all about disobediance and doing what is right, has incredible characters with actors to match, and I loved it. I believe i will even buy the dvd as I think it requires a couple more viewings. I have also have discovered I have a bit of a crush on Dave White who writes reviews for movie.com; here’s what he says: “What’s the Deal? Do not, I repeat, do not take kids to this movie unless you’re somehow convinced of their innate worldliness, knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and its dour aftermath and ability to withstand nightmare-inducing horror. Because more than anything, this is a frightening, brutal adult fairy tale that really takes its cues from old-school fairy tales in which something evil never fails to befall hapless innocents. It’s violent, creepy and unlike anything you’ve seen in a while. It’s also insanely imaginative and beautiful. An awesome movie, but not for little kids. At all…And Another Thing: I want to send writer/director Guillermo Del Toro a thank-you note for not being afraid to go down the darkest, most heartbreaking path toward his movie’s ending. Anyone have his address? I might send some chocolates, too.” Alright, so this isn’t the funniest review, a good one was blood diamond, which I was also contemplating: “What’s the Deal? It was high time Hollywood stopped trying to make people care about genocide in Africa with stuff like Hotel Rwanda and simply embraced its natural impulse to exploit. Now it’s just a really exciting and gory backdrop for a chase movie about a hot smuggler chasing diamonds who then falls for sexy American journalist Connelly.

Who Hates Jennifer Connelly? My guess is that it’s director Edward Zwick. I have no proof of this, mind you, other than the little problem of her performance being world-class awful. It’s the kind of sore thumb that makes you think careful editing and a grudge was involved.

When to Check Out: The last scene, when the guy from 7th Heaven is talking and the diamond industry gets to tell you that they do not condone the sort of “conflict diamonds” the whole movie is about. Then there’s uplifting dumbness with Hounsou. If you just get up and go, you’ll save yourself from a big inappropriate laugh in a crowded theater.”

he’s brilliant, I shall be reading all of his reviews from now on.

Today, chinatown with Ruel, haven’t seen him in ages either. We had dim sum at the Empress Pavilion, and it is the best in town…this morning’s feast was worth every second of the hour wait to get a table. Here’s a view of the restaurant, it is huge and packed to overflowing so that the poor servers with their carts full of hot steaming deliciousness can hardly move around…you really have no idea what you’re getting because English is in short supply, but you can see it…we passed on the tentacled thingie that looked somewhat alive, and the shark fin was a surprise but not bad at all if a little chewy.

Go here too if you’re ever in town. 15 pounds heavier than before, we stumbled out the door to get coffee and dessert (managed that somehow without unbuttoning my trousers), and amble around chinatown, saw groups of men standing around playing a complicated game involving concentric circles and white game pieces, a woman playing the something something, I’m really betraying my ignorance today, but the stringed instrument she was playing was heartbreakingly beautiful, a nine year old Mongolian contortionist who did amazing things that made my stomach turn a bit, as you can see:

a woman who could balance absolutely anything…she had 3 raw eggs balanced on a stick on her nose and made it look remarkably easy…I might try it myself later, though I’d be happy with just balancing an egg on an egg in the palm of my hand. Apparently almost no one else can do this 3 egg balancing act, and I quite believe it.

I shall miss this place just a bit I think.

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Low Culture and High Culture

About 5 years ago my friend Jeronimo took me to this restaurant in the depths of South Central, you could hardly call it a restaurant, it was like a trip to El Salvador…the way it looked, the way that it smelled…it took me back I must say. It’s all outdoors behind a white building that looks like a hole in the wall and closed to the public, with huge grills where they cook mojarras (grilled fish), and pupusas, and you eat at these long tables under plastic tarps, and on the walls are cheap decorations and towels with pictures of salvadoran scenes. They serve you on paper plates covered with foil, curtido and salsa on the side. I must say, the salsa could use a heavy dose of chile – that’s not the Salvadoran way however, and I can respect that…today I found it again without even looking! Like finding an old friend, Jose took me this time, it’s called Don Lencho’s and it’s on 61st and Normandie, and still delicious! I decided against the fish, for while delicious, its fragrance remains with you for the rest of the day, so had pupusas de frijol y queso, and I ate them with my fingers and they were soooooo good! I should have gotten Jose to take a picture before I ate them, because the remnants of a good meal are never classy, but here is Don Lenchos in all of it’s splendour!


The red towel behind me with the ladies making pupusas is seen everywhere in El Salvador and actually something I own, it was a gift from one of my old clients and therefore one of my prized possessions since it was someone I loved and respected very much…I helped Juan with his asylum case, but when his father died we tried to get a visa so he could return for the funeral. We did not succeed and that I still feel was one of the most unjust things in the entire world, for Juan’s father…imagine – one of his sons was tortured and killed, the other son tortured and fled and he never saw him again…and all they had done was teach cathechism and literacy. Juan just left because his father dying without saying goodbye…it f*&ed him up a little, he came back with a coyote and I was so afraid he wouldn’t make it back…and he still found time to buy me a gift. Anyways, finding this place again was enough to make my day, I love it!

This evening after work I went to the Central Library to see Alain de Botton speak on his new book Architecture of Happiness…it was very highbrow and very nice, and I have to say, I enjoy hearing Oscar Wilde and Stendhal quoted, I enjoy discussions of architecture, and I enjoy wondering why exactly it is that the world is not more beautiful, and how important architecture really is, and how my surroundings affect my thoughts and aspirations…I’m a bit of an architecture enthusiast but politically feel people should come first, so I’m always a bit torn by beautiful, and expensive, buildings. I enjoyed laughing at pictures of aesthetes who wandered the streets with large sunflowers so as not to see the horror, who care more about the colour of the wallpaper than the people who put it up…and still must admit that I have my aesthetic side that cringes at what people decorate their homes with, though I do not allow even those horrible plaster cupids with gilding on their silly wings to affect my love for people. I even enjoyed the older eccentric woman, who twice whispered quite loudly “stop talking” when the other guy was speaking, though technically it was a dialogue between Alain and Christopher ? who writes the architecture column for the Times. I suppose she’s old, time is ticking and she just wanted to get onto the Q&A section…

Speaking of architeture, I bought tickets today for the LA Philharmonic which set me back a bit and though painful, will hopefully be worth every penny. I’m treating my parents to a concert in Gehry’s Disney Hall on Sunday…My first time inside and I’m pretty excited about seeing it and hearing the accoustics, will be a good weekend I think!

The glorious Alhambra, Spain

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